Drive down Evans Avenue in the Bayview neighborhood and you will see a new large-scale temporary mural, Clear the Air, by Bayview Hunters-Point native and artist Malik Seneferu. The mural is installed along the Headworks Facility Project fence on Evans Avenue between Rankin and Phelps Streets.
Seneferu was commissioned by the SFPUC and San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) to create the mural for the Southeast community. For Seneferu, creating art means creating ties to the community and deepening the relationship to loved ones, the people he has met, and gives him the opportunity to reach people he will never meet.
“There is a saying I grew up hearing, ‘in community there is the word unity’, which to me means communication, a communal unity, and people working together for a greater cause,” Seneferu explains. “It’s people coming together to share memories and share ideas of the future.”
Currently based in Richmond, Seneferu is a painter and muralist whose work explores race, identity, politics, spirituality, and adolescence. Seneferu’s art has been featured in galleries, museums, magazines, and newspapers around the world with a special emphasis on under-served communities throughout the Bay Area. In 2004, he led the Come Alive project working with schools in the Bayview- Hunters Point to collaborate with students on the design and painting of two public murals.
In partnership with the SFAC, the Headworks Facility Project construction fence temporary art program, launched last year, features four artists that display their artwork for a period of one year. The SFPUC is working with artists, local communities, nonprofits, and government agencies to create public art that reflects the character of our neighborhoods. These public art projects embody the mission, vision and values of local communities while inspiring them to respect the natural resources trusted to our care.
“Malik’s artistic voice is a testament to the strength of Black artists’ work in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area,” stated Director of Cultural Affairs, Ralph Remington. “The monumentally scaled mural on Evans Avenue marries his environmental justice activism with his formidable talents creating imagery that is both bold and colorful and precise and detailed. We are truly excited to have this award-winning, self-taught painter, draughtsman, muralist, sculptor, illustrator, educator and mentor from the Bayview sharing his work with the community he is so inextricably connected to.”
Recognizing the important role of art in the community, 2% of above-ground construction costs from the Headworks Facility Project go to integrating arts and cultural elements into the new facilities and green spaces as well as during construction. The SFPUC partners with the SFAC to utilize the Bayview Artist Registry and the Bayview Arts Master Plan to ensure the public art funded by SFPUC projects support local artists, and recognize and celebrate the people, values, and history of the Bayview-Hunters Point community.
For this project, Seneferu partnered with The San Francisco Chapter of the Links, Rise University Preparatory, and Aquarium by the Bay to offer a series of virtual workshops to over 80 youths. While teaching them how to draw the elements featured in his artwork design, Seneferu engaged workshop participants in conversation about the impact that pollution has had on them and their families’ lives; as well as issues related to health and environmental justice in the Bayview Hunters-Point community.
His goal talking and working with students is to inspire them that whatever they decide to do in life, all they need to do is stay with it, to keep moving their desires in that direction. “Life is going to pull you in separate directions,” Seneferu said. “There are two parts to creating: building and destroying or destroying and then building. There is a relationship between the two and far too many of our youth believe there is only destruction because they have come up through destruction. The idea is to communicate the full answer—construction from destruction—inhale, exhale.”
Extending over 400’, Seneferu’s monumental mural seeks to reinforce the importance of community, family, and using past experiences to “clear the air” to help build a better future. The artwork features 80 unique blue ink trees, selected from the artist’s series of meditative ballpoint pen sketches that reflect on the relationship between the tree and the Black figure. Derived from Seneferu’s “From the Hill and Beyond” series of paintings, expressive, colorful masks punctuate the mural’s expanse, symbolizing immortalized ancestors igniting a cultural advancement. The abstracted background motif references the Sankofa, an Adinkra symbol taking the form of a stylized bird that expresses the importance of reaching back to lessons learned in the past and using this knowledge to make positive change in the future.
The SFPUC is committed to ensuring the new facilities are cleaner and better for the community, with emission levels that will not exceed that of the current aging facilities. Once complete, the new Headworks facility will ensure a reliable, sustainable system that addresses the needs of the system and the odor concerns of the community. During construction, the SFPUC is committed to minimizing the air quality impacts of construction by meeting or exceeding the highest and most stringent clean construction requirements in the nation. At the end of the project, street level improvements will be made to enhance the surrounding of the neighborhood including trees planted and enhanced lighting along Evans Avenue.
The trees depicted in the mural and the encouragement from the artists to plant more trees on Evans Avenue underscores the overall improvements being made at the Southeast Treatment Plant to transform the facility designed as a wastewater pollution treatment facility into a modern resource recovery center, an attractive workplace and a neighborhood asset.
Learn more about construction at the Southeast Treatment Plant at sfpuc.org/SEPConstruction. Learn more about the SFPUC’s public art efforts here.
Please visit the SFAC website to learn more about future public art opportunities or the Bayview Arts Master Plan.
For more information about artist Malik Seneferu and his work, click here.